The myth of the modern dad exposed: New book claims men still won't sacrifice their careers for fatherhood

One in three men do not take their statutory paternity leave

The popular image of the modern, hands-on father might have to be scrapped. The idea that men are cutting back on work to help their partners with childcare is a myth, according to a provocative new book that presents stark evidence illustrating the British male's reluctance to step back from his job.

Although more mothers of young children have returned to the workplace compared to a decade ago, the gap has been filled not by their partners but by nurseries, carers, grandparents and other relatives.

About 6,000 more men are looking after babies and toddlers full-time compared to 10 years ago, the analysis of official statistics shows, while there are 44,000 fewer stay-at-home mums dedicated solely to childcare.

The notion that dads are opting to replace mothers in huge numbers is "a fallacy", according to Gideon Burrows, author of Men Can Do It! The Real Reason Dads Don't Do Childcare and What Men and Women Should Do About It, to be published next week.

The book, which has been described as a "wake-up call for all new parents", also examines the barriers to equal parenting, including poor paternity pay, non-flexible jobs, public services geared towards mothers, workplace prejudice and social conventions. But Burrows concludes that the biggest obstacle is men themselves: "They don't really want to do it."

He told The Independent on Sunday: "The sad truth is that we don't really want to do childcare. It's lovely, but it's also boring, disgusting, unrewarding and tedious and entails career, financial and life sacrifices that we're just not willing to take. It is hard to swim against the tide of convention, but if we really wanted to do it, we would go ahead. We don't."

Men talk about how much they want to spend time with their children, but then do nothing about it, according to the book. One in three do not take their statutory paternity leave and, at weekends, fathers spend far less time with their children than their partners do. A third do not change nappies or bathe their babies, Burrows found.

Yet the father of two is an exception. He decided to split childcare equally with his wife, Sarah, shortly after their first daughter was born. They now each spend two-and-a-half days looking after their two children, Erin, five, and Reid, three. They dedicate the rest of their time to their careers.

Burrows, 36, decided to cut back on his own work after he saw his wife's career as a producer on BBC's Panorama "turned on its head" after she gave birth to their first child. "I realised the immense injustice women were facing in the home and the workplace because men weren't willing to do childcare," he said.

He decided to write Men Can Do It! last year after being diagnosed with an incurable brain tumour. "The diagnosis finally forced me to get down on paper the thoughts that had been circulating in my mind ever since my first child was born," he said. "I knew this might be one of the last chances."

The book documents his quest for equality – from being a "freakish exception" at the school gates, at mother-toddler meetings and after-school parties – to his invention of "extreme breastfeeding": on his wife's nights off, he would place their baby on her breast so as to try not to wake her.

He calls for a "man manifesto" and a "new idea of what it means to be a father". He is the first to admit there are sacrifices, but he sees no alternative.

"For women to gain, men have to willingly accept a loss," he said. "A level playing field at home and at work will not just occur naturally, and it's very unlikely to happen through legislation alone."

He stresses that he and his wife are not some "sort of yoghurt-weaving, out-there, new age" people. "We're just ordinary people who have made specific choices because of our commitment to each other."

As for his diagnosis, he said, it reminded him how lucky he was to have been an equal parent from the start of his children's lives. "We all think the worst will never happen to us, then suddenly it does. I feel incredibly fortunate to look back on my family life and to see that I've squeezed it for everything that it was worth, even if it meant making sacrifices to my career, my income and my ambitions."

He does not know how long he has yet to live, although average life expectancy is five to eight years. "With my particular condition, there are no absolutes," he said. "[But] I never think I'm going to miss seeing my kids growing up. Sitting there playing Play-Doh with them feels to me like one of the most valuable ways to spend my life. If I had only one week left, I'd spend it doing that."

Suggested Topics
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
tv
Voices
voicesSiobhan Norton on why she eventually changed her mind
News
i100
Extras
indybest
Sport
Scottish singer Susan Boyle will perform at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    BI Manager - £50,000

    £49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

    BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

    £48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

    VB.Net Developer

    £35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

    SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

    Day In a Page

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
    Why do we have blood types?

    Are you my type?

    All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
    Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

    Honesty box hotels

    Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

    Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

    The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn